Archive for the ‘Complete Streets’ Tag

Complete Streets: A Good Idea with a Bad Unintended Consequence   3 comments

I found this article on line.

There’s a bittersweetness to this. I walk and ride my bike a lot. I would like to accomplish those activities without giving my life into the hands of idiot drivers. On the other hand ….

As a driver, I want to get where I need to go. I don’t want to be slowed by any consideration other than safety and my fellow drivers. Once I get in the vicinity of where I am going, I will often walk between stores, but I don’t want to be slowed in getting to the vicinity. 

“This spring, Fairbanks will start reconfiguring downtown streets to improve conditions for people traveling on foot and bicycle. Wider sidewalks, new bike lanes and narrowed arterials will calm traffic and make travel safer for everyone using the road.”

Living in Fairbanks and being aware of the plans that are being touted in this magazine gives me a unique perspective on the “reconfiguring of downtown streets”. Fairbanks has struggled for decades to revitalize its downtown, which was devastated by commercial growth on the outskirts that drew away shoppers. I’m sad about that too. It’s a unique area of town, with funky frontier architecture and I wish we could save it from the bulldozer of modern development … but this is not the way to do it.

Narrow Cushman Street and “calming traffic” means it will take me longer to get where I am going, so guess what happens? Being a busy modern lady with a hundred things on my plate, I will opt for those easy to access stores in the Box Belt rather than have my time wasted in an unnecessary traffic jam. Sorry Downtown, but my time is precious and I don’t want to waste it being frustrated. Most Fairbanksans agree with me so Downtown dries up and blows away. 

“The state ranks highest in the U.S. in the percentage of walking and biking commutes and in per capita funding for non-motorized transportation, and third-lowest in fatality rate among walkers and bicyclists.”

The above is a false statement dressed up in true statistics. Alaska ranks first in non-car motorized transportation because 80% of our communities are not accessible by road. Out in our bush communities, primary forms of transportation of 4-wheeler and snow machine. So, yes, we rank highest in walking commutes, but only became cars and the roads to drive them on are not available.

So, here’s the sad thing. Complete Streets makes a lot of sense. Walking is good for us and we should all do more of it and it makes a whole lot more sense for me to visit five shops in the Downtown area via my feet than to drive my car, thus saving gasoline and reducing emissions. But … BUT … because Complete Streets will slow traffic flow to the Downtown area, most people will opt to go elsewhere, thus facilitating the exact opposite behavior from what Donna Gardino wants.

So, when it fails, the Planners will come back and say we need to do more to revitalize Downtown and they’ll start introducing ways to force us to comply with these ideas.

The sad thing is that the solution is pretty obvious to me. Make it easier to drive into the Downtown area by providing wider streets to avoid traffic jams and business-supported parking so that it doesn’t cost me so much get out of my car. Those of us who like to walk will make use of it if you make it attractive, but by making it highly unattractive, the Planners force us to vote with our tires and shop in the Box Belt.



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